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First Impressions and Chopping with Gurkha House SN1

Jun 9, 1999
Well, here goes my first review on my first khukuri! First, my initial impressions and some specs. A picture can be seen at http://www.cystern.com/store/khukuris.html . The khukuri in this review is a Service Number One, the first one shown on the page in the link. I got a sort of factory second from Craig; there was a small ding about 2" down the blade, measuring from the cho. More on this later. The specs and dimensions of my Service Number One are as follows:

Dimensions and Specifications:

Blade length from bolster to tip: 10"-10.25"
Handle length: 5"
Handle material: Water Buffalo horn
Bolster and buttcap material: Brass
Blade material: Recycle leaf spring from an automobile
Blade thickness: 3/8" along the spine
Weight: 1 to 1.5 lbs, guesstimated
Sheath material: Wooden sheath with water buffalo hide wrapping and water buffalo hide frog
Accessories: Chakma and karda (edge burnisher and small knife)

I took all of the measurements with a ruler and would consider them accurate to within .25" give or take. Now, on to the Initial Impressions!

Initial Impressions:

First impression; BIG! This is a very large knife to most people. At around 15" overall, it is quite imposing. The fit and finish are all right on the khukuri, but the chakma and karda are a little rougher. Looking at the bolster on the khukuri where it meets the blade, you can see where some epoxy squeezed out onto the metal. This is purely an aesthetic flaw, and should in no way affect the performance of the big blade. Also noted was a loose buttcap. I don't believe that it has been secured with epoxy; rather it is held on by the peened-over tip of the hidden tang. While I don't think its coming off anytime soon, I am going to take it off and secure it with epoxy just to be sure.

The finish on the handle is good; the horn is polished and very pretty, the bolster is also nicely formed and polished. However, the horn, bolster and buttcap don't meet up very well. The handle is very secure and comfortable, there is no digging or abrasion due to this flaw so I'm writing it off as purely aesthetic.

The blade has what I would describe as a satin polish; very good for corrosion resistance which is quite important with such a high carbon steel. On one side of the blade, directly in-line with the cho, the word NEPAL in capital letters is stamped into the blade. Its a little uneven, but nice. On the other side, right up where the blade begins to curve, two symbols are stamped into the blade. I assume they are Indian or Nepalese, but I have no idea as to their meaning nor does the package insert make any mention of them. They do add to the authentic look of the blade though.

The edge of the blade was passably sharp when I took it out of the box; not as sharp as I like it to be but it would have chopped. I didn't do any testing with this edge because I wanted to take the chip out first. Another thing I noticed while inspecting the edge was that the tip was blunted and turned over a little bit. I took it to my room and used the chakma to push it over a little, then smoothed it out with a coarse silicon carbide stone. It sharpened very easily due to the soft tip, which I am told is an intentional effect of the zone-hardening used to make this tool.

The chakma and karda are rather rough as I mentioned; they are about 4" long overall with horn handles. The karda had no edge to speak of; its still somewhat thick along the edge, a situation I can easily rectify with my Edge Pro. It seems to be kind of soft; a pass along the coarse bench stone took off quite a bit of metal. I'm not overly concerned about it as its basically an emergency tool for me. I always have a few pocket knives with me unless I'm at school. The chakma is new to me; I've never seen or used one before. I'll mention my use of it a little later.

The sheath is very nice upon inspection; the frog is solid and snug and the khukuri, chakma and karda all fit into their respective slots securely. The khukuri is a bit hard to draw, but I've heard they loosen up with time. The brass fitting on the tip of the sheath seems very secure and is fitted to the leather very nicely. I consider the sheath top notch, much better than any that I have recieved with any factory knife. Its not at all flashy, just tough and functional like the knife it holds.

My overall impression was most favorable, especially for a knife I only paid $40 dollars for due to a chip in the blade. Now, on to some chopping.

Results of Sharpening, Chopping and Bushwacking

This morning I took the khukuri to my garage and got out a small bastard file with one curved face. I used it to take out the chip that saved me $20; altogether it was a five minute operation. This section of the blade is very soft, so the file bit right into it. The chip was about 1/16" deep and 1/8" long. Grinding it out only affected the blade profile negligably.

Next, I sharpened it with my Edge Pro Apex. It is fairly awkward to sharpen with an Edge Pro due to its size, shape and weight, but its doable. I didn't touch the first 1.5" of the blade; I concentrated mainly on the dropped, curved portion of the blade. By this time I was practically jumping up and down with impatience to finally cut something, so I ground a bevel with the medium stone, removed the burr and considered it done. It wasn't shaving sharp by any means, but it had plenty of bite.

The next phase in the testing was to chop some grapevines. I chose these since they basically laugh at my 18" Ontario machete and they offer a unique challenge in chopping. They are very springy and lightweight; the little ones just bounce off of the blade while the big ones absorb half of the chopping stroke before they actually get cut a little. I decided to see how the khukuri's unique blade geometry would fare against these frustrating weeds.

Starting out, the khukuri impressed me with its heft and swing-ability. The edge made short work of springy little pricker-bushes, while also making very deep cuts when used for chopping. Up to 1" to vines could be cut with one stroke if I hit them right. Larger diameter vines were more stubborn, but the big khuk made deep cuts on them with no problem on full powered swings. I noticed that during prolonged chopping (2 or so minutes straight) when using high-powered swings, my pinky finger was absorbing a lot of vibration. It got pretty stiff, but it let up soon after I quit chopping. Undettered, I decided to count how many chops it would take to go through a large diameter vine.

At this point I had been in the woods fooling around for about half an hour. My hand was a little tired, but my arm was still pretty fresh. I picked out a vine that was both rooted in the ground and solidly enmeshed in a tree. I used my Delica for a reference and figured that its diameter was about 3" or so. Then I started chopping. My chops were fairly accurate, so it went rather fast. Exactly 45 chops were neccesary to go the whole way through the vine, and from looking at the ends I figure that the last 1/4" or so gave up and broke rather than cutting. Only one problem; about halfway through I developed a blister on my pinky finger. Its right on the first knuckle. Fortunately it didn't break, so I was able to continue chopping.

I wasn't so lucky on the next one. While chopping on another vine right after the first one, I developed another blister on my palm about 1/4" below my middle finger. This one broke and stopped all further testing for a week or so.

Note: All through this time I periodically used the chakma to burnish the edge of the khukuri. I'm not sure exactly how this is supposed to be done; I basically just laid the flat of the chakma against the edge at a 35-40 degree angle and swiped it gently down the length of the edge. It did seem to improve the sharpness somewhat while I was using it, I'll have to mess with it more later on.


I really like the way it looks and feels; this is a very tough knife that looks good too. It could fit together a little better, but as a user it's fine. The sheath is first rate. As to the blisters; over the last winter and fall I have not done any hard work with my hands. I used to have tough and callused hands, but now they're pretty soft. I think that this was the main cause of my blisters, but another factor could also be in the handle. Right before the swell at the end, it is fairly thin. I think that this could have kept my pinky finger from gripping tightly enough to prevent blisters as I have very long fingers. Also, the raised rings worked in the middle of handle may have contributed to my second blister. I am going to smooth them out a little and toughen up my hands, then repeat this test to see if anything changes. Thanks for reading my review and please let me know what you think!

Just because I talk to myself does not make me crazy. Now, when I listen to myself, that makes me crazy.
Good review. My only concern is that you noted that part of the edge was soft. I don't think that it should be that easy to remove a chip from the edge. Can't beat it for the money though.
Cobalt, the part of the edge that is soft is down towards the handle, right in the recurve section of the blade. It is made this way for toughness. Actually, during my test I don't think that I used that part of the edge at all.

Just because I talk to myself does not make me crazy. Now, when I listen to myself, that makes me crazy.

Good review. BTW, the SN1 is NOT a big knife for Khuk addicts. Now, you're just going to wonder about that til you break down and get a bigger model..
Craig's 20" AK is a BIG knife and would have made short work of that vine.


AKTI #A000356
sing, I know what you mean. I'm just afraid that my arm would give out before the vine did with a 20" AK! The SN1 didn't do too shabbily either, it just tore my hand apart. Once I get a new handle on it things should get better. And thanks for reading my review guys, I appreciate it. Any and all criticism is welcome.

Just because I talk to myself does not make me crazy. Now, when I listen to myself, that makes me crazy.